I ordered steak frites when I went to Bouchon last October, thinking that I should order the stereotypical bistro dish. Every single bite was worth it. That's saying something, considering the giant pile of fries that come with your steak. I've made this dish before, but not this particular recipe. Those endeavors were not exactly failures, but they were nothing spectacular either. I prepared this recipe in a completely interleaved manner that would be 100% impossible to understand if I wrote this post chronologically. So you're going to get the steak, and then the fries, and then everything all together. Say thank you. You're welcome.
The choice of steak seems to be up for debate, or at least personal preference. Keller says Bouchon uses flatiron. Hanger steak (aka onglet, Anthony Bourdain's choice) or top sirloin are suitable substitutes. The grocery store I was at had a single flatiron steak, so I bought a top sirloin steak as well.
The two steaks I bought were very thin. This worried me since the recipe calls for browning on the stovetop and then finishing them in the oven. My worries were not unfounded. I preheated the oven to 450 anyway. The ingredients here are pretty simple. A couple of steaks, a few tablespoons of butter, a ton of shallots, and some thyme.
I seasoned the steaks with salt and pepper and heated a skillet over high heat. When the pan was nice and hot I added in a film of canola oil. A few seconds later the steaks and a teaspoon of butter when in. I started to let the steak brown on the first side but it became apparent almost instantly that the steaks were just too thin to allow them to brown completely. I flipped the steaks pretty early.
I basted the top side of the steaks with the butter and oil while the bottom side 'browned'. I had to deviate from the recipe at this point. The recipe said to drain the excess fat while the steak was still browning and then add the shallots, thyme, and a tablespoon or so of butter. They should cook with the steak for a few minutes before the steak is removed and shallots are finished. I took the steaks out immediately and cooked the shallots on their own. I put everything onto a baking sheet when it was done.
See how nice and browned those steaks are? The steaks were cooked all the way through by this point, so there would be no finishing them in the oven. I turned the oven off and used it just to keep the steaks warm while I finished the fries. It would not be long.
I started the fries but cutting the russet potatoes into matchsticks that were probably close to 4 inches long and 1/4 inch cross sections. I soaked the potatoes in cold water for about fifteen minutes to removes some of the excess starch. Here's the first possible chance for things to go wrong, but more about that later.
I went out and bought a gallon of peanut oil to make these since everyone seems to think that peanut oil is the best for frying. I would not argue that one bit. I put probably 80% of the gallon in my brand spankin' new dutch oven and heated it to 320 degrees Fahrenheit. It made this cool ripple in the pot, so I took a picture of it.
After draining the potatoes pretty well on paper towels, I added a bunch into the oil. The instructions said to cook them for 5 to 6 minutes or until they were a very pale gold. This is where my problems started. My potatoes were a pale gold in about 2.5 minutes.
I took them out and drained them on paper towels again while I finished the other batches. When the entire set of fries were through the first cooking, I heated the oil up to 375 degrees. The fries are supposed to get cooked for another 2 or 3 minutes at this higher temperature (it crisps the outside now that the insides are already cooked), but my fries only made it about 15 seconds. Weird. My only guess is that I didn't soak the potatoes for long enough and that they were too dry. If it's not that, I have no idea.
Whatever the cause, I sprinkled the fries with some salt and assembled everything. Assembly here means put a steak and some fries on a plate and then add a tasty slice of herb butter to the steak. It's almost time to eat.
Between the overly colored fries and underly colored steak, this was not as nice as I expected it to be. In case you wondering what all the green stuff is, it's chard. It has nothing to do with Bouchon, but it may have been the best part of this dinner. By no means were the steak and fries bad, they were perfectly acceptable. It was not, however, restaurant quality. One thing that was very noticeable was that the flatiron steak was much better than the top sirloin. It was beefier without being any tougher and it stood up better to the fries and butter.
Our consensus was that maybe this is a dish, at least the fries part anyway, that is best left to restaurants. For $3 you can have a plate full of golden brown deliciousness, and there won't be a gallon of oil on your stove a week and a half later. I'd give it a shot again, but probably only one more. It's a reasonably big mess to deal with too often. Still tastes pretty good though.
3 years ago